March is Women’s History Month, and we’re celebrating here at GrokNation. While March is an excellent time to reflect upon the impact and contributions of women of the past, it’s also a great time to honor women who are currently making waves and creating change. Though, it should be noted, the celebration of women — both past and present — should not be a one-month activity, but rather one that takes place daily!
We asked our own favorite feminists to pick someone they thought deserved a shout-out in honor of Women’s History Month:
Who is one of your favorite feminists and why?
Danielle Corcione: “It’s hard to choose just one, but right now, I have to give a shout out to Marissa J. Johnson and Leslie Mac of Safety Pin Box for continually leading their community towards intersectional feminist education.”
Awanthi Vardaraj: Lakshmibai, the Rani of Jhansi; She was the queen of the state of Jhansi in central north India. She was one of the leading figures of the Indian rebellion of 1857 and became an enduring symbol of resistance to the British occupation of India.
She would never have heard the word ‘feminist’ in her lifetime; she died in battle at the age of 29 in 1858. But I have never called her anything else. When the British forces stormed Jhansi in March 1858 she and her army fought valiantly to repel them; as Jhansi began to fall she withdrew from her palace and took refuge in the fort. That night she made a daring escape; with her baby son tied to her back she leaped onto the back of her favourite horse from the wall of the fort and escaped, surrounded by guards. She actually fought in battle with her baby tied to her back; there are multiple statues around India that depict this.
She continued to battle the British, defending surrounding towns and cities until they fell, and was commanding a large army that ran into British forces in June 1858. The British outnumbered the Indians and slaughtered everyone over the age of 16; Lakshmibai lost her horse and kept fighting, although she was wounded by a British soldier’s sabre. As she sat bleeding by the roadside, she recognised the soldier and fired at him with a pistol, at which point he ‘dispatched the young lady with his carbine.’ She had asked that her body be cremated so as not to fall into the hands of the British, and her tomb is in Gwalior. Hugh Rose, in his account of this battle, said she was ‘personable, clever, and beautiful,’ and ‘the most dangerous of all Indian leaders.’ I have looked up to her my whole life.”
Jen Selk: “Lindy West. Her decision to leave Twitter (though it makes total sense considering that she was being constantly harassed by barely-sentient snot-blobs, otherwise known as men) was so sad. Lindy is a gateway feminist. You fall in love with her hilarious, touching, super-smart writing and the next thing you know — poof! — you are a badass, shouty, feminist witch among witches. She is younger than me, yet I still aspire to grow up to become exactly like her. Cross fingers.”
Lyndsay Kirkham: “If I had to select just one woman to celebrate on March 8th, it would be my boss. She embodies the perseverance, empathy and quiet consideration that I seek heroes. She pushes women (and men) to achieve their capabilities while shining a gentle light on areas where work needs doing. She is humble and acknowledges her privileges while demonstrating to women that their lives (and all their intersections) are the mightiest gifts and should be enjoyed in all the ways that feel good. (I have of course purchased her a copy of my favourite Toronto poet’s ‘Milk and Honey’ for IWD, because we all need to read Rupi Kaur’s words).”
Sarah Buttenwieser: “Marlene Gerber Fried, who made CLPP, an incubator for change-makers. But beyond all she’s done—and it’s a long list—what I admire about her commitment to feminism is that she has been so very willing to grow and to be changed by others. Her feminism has broadened and deepened over decades. That is itself something to learn from and emulate.”
Dakota Kim: “Winona LaDuke is the leader we need to see, literally, as more visible in our media. As a teenager, I put a photo of her up on my wall to remind me of the power of people and the environment in struggle against money and greed. She reminded me as well that spirituality belongs to humans, not to the government. Her fight to get native lands back for the Anishinaabe inspired me in my own activism with Students for a Free Tibet. Her fight for biodiversity and against genetic modification, plus her love for the community of food beyond consumption, inspired me to form an alternative view as a food editor. She and her organization Honor the Earth have been instrumental in #noDAPL efforts.”
Shaindel Beers: “Someone once asked Siri this question, and this is what Siri had to say. I rather like that philosophy.”
Seranine Elliot: “One of my recent feminist inspirations is a young transgender girl named Henry. Henry is keeping her name because it’s her name. The idea of changing it is ridiculous to her, nonsense. She’s only in second grade, and already she doesn’t have time for your arbitrarily gendered bullshit. If ‘Henry’ is a boy’s name, it’s a girl’s name, too. Henry has helped me to consciously realize that one does not need to learn feminism until one has learned patriarchy. Feminism is the antidote that restores to us our shared humanity, that permits us to be who we actually are.”
Mayim Bialik: “My favorite feminist is Egyptian flame-haired warrior, Mona Eltahaway. While she probably despises that I embrace modesty, I applaud Ms. Eltahaway for being so transparent and brave in tackling the complexity of being a Muslim woman who grew up wearing hijab. She has her finger on the pulse of global feminism and I follow her on Twitter as one of the only non-actor people I follow because she helps me understand daily the global struggles we have to fight for rights to our bodies, our relationships, and the right to express ourselves freely and boldly. Her book, Headscarves and Hymens is revered all over the world for her call to action to disentangle notions of womanhood with chastity. She is also very stylish and I get a lot of strength from seeing how she balances her fashion sense with her personality in public and in private. Mona, if you are reading this, thank you for inspiring so many women and men all over the world.”
Have a question for our ragtag group of raging feminists? Send it to Avital Norman Nathman at TheMamafesto@gmail.com and it might just be answered in a future Feminism 101!